A new discovery suggests that ancient Rome was bigger than many believed

A new discovery suggests that ancient Rome was bigger than many believed

A house found in ancient Rome’s central district may show that the city was much larger than previously thought.

The rectangular residence was discovered on the Quirinal Hill, between the modern Via Veneto and the Termini train station, and is believed to date from the sixth century BC.

Ancient ruins on Quirinal Hill, Rome. Representational image.

During the reign of Servius Tullius, the sixth of Rome’s seven early kings, the Quirinal is believed to have been occupied. It was once the site of a Sabine village dedicated to a god named Quirinius, hence the hill’s name.

Archaeologists have previously believed the site to be a sacred area, reserved for temples and a necropolis, with residential areas situated further south near the Forum.

The Quirinal is now the location of the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic, although the king of Italy and the Pope have also lived there.

Rome was ruled by seven kings , beginning with Romulus, the legendary founder of the city (753 to 715 BC). Servius Tullius reigned between 579 BC and 535 BC and was succeeded by Tarquinus Superbus (534 to 510 BC) who was overthrown and forced into exile.

The Roman historian Livy wrote that the Republic that came after was established by Brutus and Collatinus.

Schematic map of Rome showing the Seven Hills of Rome, including Quirinal Hill.

Thereafter it was governed by a system in which two consuls were elected, both of them answerable to the Senate. The kings had absolute power with the Senate only responsible for putting their commands into practice.

It was the symbol of these kings, the bunch of rods surrounding an axe known as the ‘fasces’, that gave rise to the word ‘fascism’. The purple toga was retained by later Roman executives, particularly members of the Senate.

The house was constructed with wooden beams and clay walls . It consisted of two rooms and may have been entered via a porch. The building rests on a volcanic stone called tufa which is abundant in central Italy and was regularly used by ancient engineers.

Painting of the Colosseum in Rome in 1832, showing extensive disrepair and vegetation.

A building of this type was most probably occupied by a wealthy member of the Roman elite.

Its discovery may indicate that early sixth century Rome was not just centered on the Forum, but actually much bigger. It is possible the building was a custodians’ residence linked to a nearby temple discovered in 2013, however there are indications that it was constructed at least 50-60 years before the temple itself. 

“This is an exceptional find, among the most important of the last 10 years” Francesco Prosperetti, superintendent for Rome’s Archaeological Heritage, told The Telegraph . Mr Prosperetti announced the discovery of the residence last week.

Ms Serlorenzi told the Italian news agency, ANSA, that in the early sixth century Rome was much larger and extended over a wider area than the central district arranged around the Forum.

The ruins of a Roman amphitheater in Lecce, Italy. Representational.

The newly discovered residence could have been the abode of a custodian of a temple that was discovered in 2013.

According to Darius Arya, an American archaeologist involved with excavations at Ostia Antica, a large part of Rome’s historical heritage is not so well preserved as those monuments currently undergoing grand restoration projects, such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain.

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